The Depressing Condition Of The Press

Mark Mahoney, the editorial page editor for the Gazette, published an editorial today, Thursday 11/16, regarding the outcome of the recent Saratoga Springs charter vote. His editorial included harsh criticism of Commissioners Madigan, Scirocco, and Franck. Referring to the special City Council meeting where the three Commissioners voted to hire a lawyer to observe the counting of absentee ballots, he wrote:

“The three commissioners, knowing they had the votes to pass it, didn’t even invite the mayor and commissioner of public safety to the meeting.  Didn’t even let them know it was happening. Didn’t show them the courtesy.”

Interestingly, after being contacted by Commissioner Franck, the on line version of the editorial was changed to the following:

“Mayor Joanne Yepsen said the three commissioners, knowing they had the votes to pass it, didn’t even invite the [sic] her and the commissioner of public safety to the meeting. The three commissioners dispute the mayor’s allegation and said she and the other commissioner were indeed aware of the meeting.”

Regardless of who is telling the truth [JK: Emphasis added], this is the kind of political, self-serving garbage that 49.94 percent of the voters voted against. That’s why despite all the happy news coming out of the Spa City, they voted for change.”

I have thoroughly documented in a previous post [https://saratogaspringspolitics.com/2017/11/13/what-a-tangled-web-this-absentee-ballot-count-has-become/ ] the irrefutable fact that the Mayor was not only invited to the meeting but that in fact she was the one who sent out the notice to the Council. Her email is included in my blog post and Mr. Mahoney is in possession of a copy of that email.

Since when does a newspaper care so little about who is telling the truth when clear documentation exists in the form of an email issued over the Mayor’s name?  Why would a newspaper print a serious accusation with so little concern about its accuracy?  And who is guilty here of “political, self-serving, garbage”?  Is it the Mayor or the three Commissioners?

Most centrally, how would changing the charter address the rampant disease of politicians who lie?  This is in fact, though,  the absurd promise repeated by the Charter Review Commission.

Having worked with Art Clayman, Mr. Mahoney’s predecessor who I admired greatly, this is just another example of the degradation of a critical institution, the newspaper.

 

 

 

14 thoughts on “The Depressing Condition Of The Press”

  1. Thank you for your fine reporting John. Without you, SS would be in the dark, and totally vulnerable to some politicians who are nothing short of despicable human beings. Now the pressing question is: how do you get your voice out to All the people?

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  2. Hey John–

    “Why would a newspaper print a serious accusation with so little concern about its accuracy? ”

    Simple:
    Because there are no negative consequences.
    And honest accountability no longer exists.

    What shall we do dear readers? Cancel our subscriptions?
    Our humble watering hole, no longer receive our calliope of papers in the morning save one: the Daily Gazette.

    And if it were not for the comics and puzzle page (really superb!), it too, will go the way of that communist rag (The Post Star). So, gone are the days of that noble brain-teaser; Tom Strock and welcome the milktoast musings of Sara Foss.

    So goes journalism. Straight down the toilet…
    Right behind so many others; condemned to their useless, unproductive retirements.

    May the gods have pity on their souls.

    -JC

    PS: The Gazette also had the gall to endorse and legitimize the killer of the once esteemed party of the blue collar working class of America (no longer relevant). They are just doing the bidding of their rulers. And the Post Star has lousy comics.

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  3. John,

    There is a special Council meeting being held on Tuesday, November 28 at 5:00 PM. I know the date and time because the Finance Department contacted us first to see what dates and times would work for me and then to let us know what time and date had been set for the meeting. This has been a common practice for special Council meetings, workshops and other meetings over the past six years that I have been in City Hall. A glaring exception was the special Council Meeting that took place on Monday, November 13 at noon.

    I had been in my City Hall office on Thursday, November 9 for my usual two hour presence from1-3 PM. I returned to my dental office at 3 PM and began treating my afternoon patients. At around 3:45 in the afternoon, I received a call from Wendy Liberatore of theTimes Union. She called to tell me that there was a notice on the City website that there was going to be a special Council meeting at noon on Monday, November 13 and she wanted to know if I knew about the meeting. I told her that I knew nothing about the meeting and that I was surprised to hear about it a such a late date especially given the fact that Friday, November 10 was a City Hall holiday. She told me that the purpose of the meeting appeared to be the hiring of an attorney regarding the previous Tuesday’s election which Ifound to be very puzzling. After speaking to Wendy, I immediately called my deputy commissioner, Eileen Finneran, who was still in City Hall. Eileen had no knowledge of a special Council meeting when I spoke to her around 4 PM.

    Eileen called me back at around 4:45 PM on Thursday to say that an E mail had just gone out from the mayor’s office asking if there were additional items for the special Council meeting. That was the first official notice that we received of this meeting.

    On Friday afternoon, I went to City Hall, which was closed to the public due to the holiday. On my way into the building, I received a call from Mayor Yepsen who said that she was in her office with the City attorneys to discuss the plan to hire an election attorney. I asked if I could join the meeting since I was concerned about the manner in which the special Council meeting was set and the issue of using taxpayer funds to hire an election attorney. I was invited to join the meeting. Tony Izzo said that he had never seen a Council hire an election attorney for any purpose and neither he nor Vince DeLeonardis could explain how the Council would have standing to do so. We called Brian Quaill of the NYS Board of Elections who said that he had never witnessed a municipality doing this and he also questioned the City Council’s standing. He also could not understand why the Council would want to hire an attorney since the vote counting is done very strictly under the supervision of both county election commissioners, both of whom have excellent reputations.

    I left that meeting knowing that I would not be able to attend a noon meeting on Monday. It is common knowledge that I am not able to get to City Hall until1 PM daily. I hoped that the City attorneys could explain to Commissioners Madigan, Scirocco and Franck that it was neither necessary nor advisable to hire an election attorney. Sadly, I learned later on Monday that an attorney was hired. I also learned that the attorney hired was John Ashland whom I first met at a John Franck fundraiser and who I learned recently resigned as a Republican Party official in Warren County. A number of Post Star stories and editorials have been written recently about political intrigue in Queensbury centered around Mr. Ashland. His firm does not specialize in election law and for years he has worked closely with Commissioner Franck’s department. Given these circumstances, he would seem to be a poor choice to represent the City Council at the Board of Elections.

    I read the Daily Gazette editorial and it is accurate. The Gazette deserves an apology from John Kaufman.

    Chris Mathiesen

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    1. All good points Chris but the fact remains that the editorial stated: “Mayor Joanne Yepsen said the three commissioners, knowing they had the votes to pass it, didn’t even invite the [sic] her and the commissioner of public safety to the meeting.” The email was sent out on Thursday. I simply don’t understand how you can interpret the editorial as accurate. The issue of the press getting the information first does not conflict with the fact that the mayor was notified formally well before the meeting. You are normally fastidious about this kind of thing and this seems out of character for you.
      The attorneys name is Aspland. I was disturbed that John selected Aspland and Called him.
      John Frank asserts that he first approached Vince to act on behalf of the city but Vince said it would be a conflict. He said there is some sort of list for attorneys and that he contacted the first firm on the list but that they were not available and Aspland was next.

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    2. Chris,
      I think Art has pretty well covered the issue of the Gazette editorial wrongly stating that Joanne Yepsen was not “invited” to the special council meeting when she in fact sent out the notice.
      As regards attorney Aspland, here is a link to a recent column in the Post Star describing what I would agree are some ugly events in Queensbury involving him. http://poststar.com/opinion/columnists/column-queensbury-town-attorney-has-ethics-problem/article_6e505191-d4c9-5b24-b94e-2a0ccf73f0d3.html
      As regards your criticism of John Franck for hiring Aspland’s firm, according to John Franck after Vince DeLeonardis indicated he could not represent the city in the matter, he put out a request for bids and received three responses. He first offered the work to the law firm Brown and Weinraub. They were unable to meet the insurance requirements to represent the city in this matter. He then selected the firm in which Aspland is a partner.
      It is worth noting that you, Chris, supported hiring this same firm to act as general counsel for the city following the resignation of Sarah Burger. You actually seconded the motion.
      Since then you yourself have used his firm to represent the city on a number of occasions. Aspland himself represented the city for you in the Daryl Mount case. Most recently, the Mayor has used the firm in land use cases related to Regatta View and the eminent domain case in Geyser Crest.
      As regards the conference call “meeting” with the Mayor, the two city attorneys, and the representative of the New York State Board of Elections, I think that it is humanly understandable why the Mayor notified only you and not the other members of the Council as there is an adversarial issue here between the Mayor and you vis-à-vis the other members of the Council. Still it would have been fairer and more productive if you and the Mayor had invited the others to participate and explain their reasoning for hiring the attorney to the state Board of Elections staff person and hear his response. It was not helpful that the other Council members received no information about this meeting till they read about it in the press.

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  4. Chris, no apology is necessary by John. I am curious about 2 things:
    1- the time stamp on the email about the special meeting is shown as Thursday, November 9, 2017 4:43:36 PM Subject: Special Council Meeting Monday November 13. Do you dispute this?
    2- And yet, you state that earlier, on the same day of November 9 “At around 3:45 in the afternoon, I received a call from Wendy Liberatore of the Times Union.” In other words, about an hour before the memo went out!

    It takes very little detective or investigative work to see that Ms. Liberatore was given a heads up, probably by someone in the Mayor’s office, that this was going down. Could that be a reward for Ms. Liberatore’s “mouthpiece/parrot shill service’ to the Mayor’s office? Regardless, so much for the righteous indignation by the Mayor’s office about not being informed about an emergency meeting- and your name was invoked as also not knowing, when in fact you were informed by your Deputy, in your own words, exactly two minutes after the email was sent (“…Eileen called me back at around 4:45 PM on Thursday to say that an E mail had just gone out from the mayor’s office…) – in other words, your department acknowledged receipt. So where is the problem?

    As far as I know, there are no guidelines for ‘proper amount of notice’ for an emergency meeting, but to me Thursday for Monday is more than sufficient. It was an emergency. While we can debate the merits of hiring a lawyer or not, it called for a timely resolution to the question. Having emergency meetings has precedents – over the years I covered several that had less notice than this one.

    What it does point out is the need for Surgical Charter Reform – in this case where in important situations a Deputy (who was probably down the hall, if not in the Council Room itself) could be designated as a substitute to speak and vote on a given question according to the Commissioner’s instructions. Since this situation affects you in particular, I advocate that you introduce this measure at the next meeting before your term expires – you will be doing a service to those who will be following you, as they also might have a ‘day job’ and the Deputies are a resource.

    This is the sort of Charter tweaks that many who voted No like myself were hoping for, but instead we got a wholesale flushing of the government structure by a cabal of egghead ideologues. John should be saluted for his consistent work on this subject.

    The apologies should come from reporter lapdogs and sloppy editorial board members – not him.

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    1. Arthur, You are most correct in your statement “As far as I know, there are no guidelines…” While there are no specific timelines stated, the procedure is (not perfect wording) “As is reasonably possible…” The Mayor has, along with other members of the Council called emergency Council meetings as late as the day before and if my memory serves (not positive) even the same day. Notice is sent as soon as “reasonably possible” and if a commissioner has a conflict the best effort is made to accommodate. Generally an e-mail is sent with the proposed date and time. The commissioner (or Mayor) with the conflict would contact the person calling the meeting to see if that accommodation is possible BEFORE the Media Release is sent and an agenda provided and publicized. From all I’ve read, it seems as if this was pretty close to what was done in this case. As I’ve said prior, there seems to have been an ulterior motive in the Mayor’s desire to appear fully unavailable and to act innocent in her knowledge.

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  5. Update: There has been some movement, although slight, from the Gazette editorial board, albeit slight:
    “Editor’s Note: The editorial has been corrected in paragraph 11 to state that the mayor claimed she was not notified of the meeting about the hiring of the lawyer, but that the other commissioners refute her version and say she was indeed notified. This information does not alter the points made in the editorial.”

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  6. I fully agree with all the Arthur has said with one addition. It would not be unusual for the Mayor to hold up an announcement for self-serving reasons. I would think, based on Arthur’s observation that Ms. Liberatore knew about the meeting BEFORE the e-mail was sent, that there was some serious maneuvering by the Mayor and the Mayor Elect and the lat notice was intentional. This is further indicated by her “convenient” unavailability. Had she contacted the Commissioner Franck, there is at least a possibility that the time could have been adjusted to accommodate her as has been done many time in the past. That said, while I certainly understand the Commissioner Mathiesen cannot cancel patient appointments, we still don’t know what meeting was so important that the Mayor was unable to adjust her schedule.

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  7. I have to say, while it might have been stronger, at least the Gazette did what it said it would do and looked into this and did a followup article correcting that in fact Joanne did know about the special city council meeting contrary to what their editorial stated. This is way more than the TU has ever done to correct Wendy Liberatore’s many egregious misrepresentations of the facts.

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